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Category Archives: Ruin and Decay

Glen Davis, Capertee Valley: Mine Abandon

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Between towering sandstone escarpments in the Capertee Valley, lies a curious ruin.

A shale oil mine, first founded in 1891as the MP1 Mining Development, was later revived as National Oil Proprietary Limited, from 1940 to 1952. What remains is a series of ruins, a testament to a failed vision and also to the endurance of those who persevered with the troubled conditions, logistical, financial and political.

I toured the mine ruin on a visit to the Capertee Valley, west of the Blue Mountains. It was a beautiful, crisp winter day. The light was intense, emphasizing the sheer craggy walls of the escarpment, which enclosed the mine ruins with almost a sense of claustrophobia.

Our guide was affable, loquacious and informed. A storyteller, he regaled us with curious stories of these curious ruins; shocking workplace accidents, awful living and working conditions and a spectral figure caught on film.

My companions described the landscape as post apocalyptic, Planet of the Apes, a moonscape –  some apt descriptions.

However I can’t quite put my finger on the atmosphere. There was no doubt that the pristine day only served to accentuate the foreboding of the valley: there was indeed an other world sense, shadows and intuitions of past difficulty and trouble, hard times and futility.

What was evident was the encroach of nature, the land reclaiming its own. Entropy had set in.

A fascinating and startling landscape to visit.

There is plenty of material to read on the internet. Some interesting photos, some historical, can be found at: http://web.aanet.com.au/bayling/glendavis.html

Below are some photos. I have not tried to order or to name, but rather to give the “feel” of the place. The above website is helpful in identifying some of the ruins.

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Rozelle Substation – Suburban Abandon

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Nestled in between suburban dwellings in a quiet back street in Rozelle, Sydney, is an electricity substation dating back to 1934.

The building is no longer in use. The front facade has the clean angular lines of an art deco influenced style; the rear of the building, hidden behind barbed wire, is in a lovely leafy back lane and could almost be mistaken for a garden outhouse.

More romantically, it reminded me of early 19th century English garden architecture, where a rough hewn building in a garden landscape might contain a hermit. Tom Stoppard in his play Arcadia writes about the “hermitage” and the “hermit” in English landscape gardening.

“English landscape was invented by gardeners imitating foreign painters who were evoking classical authors…. Capability Brown doing Claude, who was doing Virgil. Arcadia!…. It’s the Gothic novel expressed in landscape.”  Tom Stoppard, Arcadia.

The gently decaying building pictured below, with its little door, abandoned furniture and lovely overgrown garden might, perhaps, contain a hermit, and I half expected one to appear…

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Beyond Ambient

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Quiet Space on Radio National is the highlight of my listening week. Mentioned before on this blog, I look forward to the hour between 12 midnight and 1.00am on Sundays and Mondays, when the inimitable Paul Gough presents a radio program of contemporary music that encompasses ambient, electronic, field recordings, distressed instrumentals and ethereal drones.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/quietspace/

The Quiet Space Top 50 2013 has been revealed over the last few weeks in January 2014. Some fabulous music from a year of fabulous music!

Check out the website for the Top 50.

Here is my pick of the wonderful music I’ve been listening to in 2013. Beyond ambient, the creators of these performances, from many countries across the globe, make music that transcends boundaries, eludes definition and is highly atmospheric and evocative.

Some of these albums have been featured on Quiet Space or I have found them through links to albums thus featured.

Documenting the Decay and Book of the Folded Forest have been played, and played again, by me; haunting music that engenders reflection and contemplation on the natural and man made worlds, on entropy and decay.

a2132894020_9Documenting the Decay – Charles Vaughan

a0348918827_9Book of the Folded Forest – Orla Wren

a1611162738_9Visiting Tides – Simon Bainton

a3634851268_9A Sense of Uncertainty  – Good Weather for an Airstrike

a3888832538_9Epilogue – Endless Melancholy

a2227694531_9naimina-longeur – Chris Herbert

a3315961257_9Weathered – epic45

Documenting a Contemporary Working Ruin

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My fascination with urban ruins has made me very observant of just how many structures lie abandoned around Sydney, magnificent in their architecture or just a signifier of a former, now outdated use.

Power stations and sub stations, abandoned factories and warehouses, disused railway lines, even single crumbling walls, exist around Sydney, mostly with very little known or documented about them.

There is a truly unique group of buildings in Sydney that sits incongruously in its suburban landscape. Once a sail-makers’ premises, the buildings today seem oddly romantic – one building, a cottage on the site, sports wrought iron window surrounds, and charming blue woodwork on the doors that is peeling and decaying, but would now be regarded as fashionably distressed.

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The premises is very much still in business and is an Aladdin’s cave of things lucent and theatrical. A further photographic project would be to document the contents of the Tardis like factory itself.

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As with most urban ruins, nature reclaims territory wherever possible. Volunteer plants – beautiful weeds – entwine themselves among rusting metal and decaying wood. Perhaps a triffid is waiting for its moment…

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The site, familiar to me for many years, still fascinates. Artisan like, quirky, dilapidated, not a ghost, clinging tenaciously to life, the spirit of this working ruin is palpable as you wander the site.

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White Bay Power Station: documenting an urban ruin

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The White Bay Power Station dominates the landscape on Victoria Road and Roberts Road in Rozelle, Sydney, a stone’s throw from the working harbour.

A marvellous ruin, the building has a fascination for this writer who has a passion for ruin, dilapidation and decay.

I document the daily and seasonal view of the tall chimneys of the ruin from my bedroom window as can be seen sometimes in the changing images which head this blog.

Built over a period from1912 to1958, and decommissioned thirty years ago, it is a heritage listed structure. The ruin towers over the entrance to the Balmain peninsula and is an iconic counterpoint to a largely residential suburb.

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